Steel and Spell

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Chapter 18

A/N: This chapter is written in the present.

Cassius POV

A gasp sounds in the silence of the morning and my eyes open to see Liberty, scared to death, trying to scramble off me.

“Hey hey everything is alright, I’m here.” I say soothingly trying to calm her down. This is the first time something like this happens, and I don’t think it is because she slept in the same bed as me.

She looks at me and relief washes over her. Her short hair is messy and sweat covers her forehead.

“Oh my god...” She mumbles, closing her eyes and passing her hand through her hair. She constantly said that phrase, which I don’t know what it is supposed to mean. Anyway...

“I...I talked to someone. A mage.” She says in disbelief, looking at me for answers.

My body tenses up. They are trying to mess up with her. But why? I swear if they put a single finger on her...

I try to take control of the situation and my anger.

“What did he told you?” I ask her seriously.

Her gaze is fixated on the wall at the feet of the bed. She sits and hugs her knees not answering.

“Liberty, I-” I was about to tell her I needed an answer to figure out what was going, but she beat me to it.

“I can’t. He said awful things...I-I was so scared.” She looks at me with slight panic in her eyes. I take her hand in mine and kiss her palm.

“Lib, it’s alright. I’m here. They won’t lay a finger on you-” I was again interrupted.

“You’re not understanding. I wasn’t scared for myself. I was for you.” She says fastly, catching her breath at the end.

I snort. “That mage is overestimating himself. I’m not that easy to put down. I think he’s going to put more effort if he wants to scare me.” I say with a reassuring me.

“Well, he did an amazing job scaring the shit out of me!” She says frustrated.

“Liberty, what did he tell you?” I ask her again, but with more determination lacing my voice. She looks at me and sighs in defeat.

“He said I’m the key to the upcoming war. He wants me to suffer, killing everyone I care for in the most gruesome ways. He says I’m being blind...” She whispers the last part with a frown.

The key to the war? How could she be involved in all this? I look at her trying to process the information she told me. What I know, is that the war is not too far away, and the kingdoms are in total darkness about it.

Suddenly she panics and looks at me wide eyes. “What if he finds a way to get to my family and kill them? Oh god...” She puts her hand over her mouth and her eyes start to water.

“Liberty, he won’t do that. He can’t. He doesn’t have the power to do it.” I try to reassure her everything is fine. She bits her lip and then anger passes through her eyes.

“How am I even involved in this? I just learned about the existence of mages just yesterday, and now I’m the key to a war? What the fuck.” She says even more frustrated. Her gaze falls on me and determination is in her eyes.

“You need to tell me more about them. EVERY single detail about them. I won’t live with myself if I don’t do something about this, or at least what I still have of my life.” She says the last part bitterly and I squeeze her hand.

“Liberty, mages are very dangerous. If you’re going to fight in this war, you need to be sure.”

“Oh, believe, I’m never been sure about something in my life. That fucker had the guts to threaten you and me. He’s going to end up 6ft underground, even if it takes me all my life.” She says determined, having no trace of fear in her eyes.

I look at the incredible woman next to me, and I can’t believe she came to my life. Any man o woman would have run for their lives if they had experienced a single thing she had been through. She is the bravest person I know without a second thought.

I smile at her and before I could stop myself I cup her cheek and kiss her.

That’s the amazing thing about her. She would fight her insecurities and fears not for herself, but for others. Since she arrived in my life, the darkness disappeared and she’s the only thing I can think of. Before I met her, I was drowning in my self-pity and loneliness. The first few years after I escaped I had endured hard experiences, but I was tough. These last years, I had been thinking about death too much. Would it affect anyone my death? Everyone thinks I’m dead anyway, but then Liberty got here, and she gave my life a twist, for good.

She is the reason I get up every day. She is the whole reason why I’m not dead. When she disappeared yesterday, I thought she was gone for good, and it was like my chest was being crushed by the sky. My life crumbled in just seconds, and I was determined to find her. For once I wasn’t worried about the mages, or the war, she is the whole purpose of my life and I was desperate to find her.

Thankfully, she returned on her own, because the filthy Pegasus was able to bring her. And yes, I still hate that Pegasus. That fucking brat...

She kissed me back with a smile on her lips. “What was that for?”

“Because you are amazing.” I looked into her green-forest eyes and I’m home. She is my home, and it took me long enough to figure it out.

I’m a total romantic now, but I don’t give any fucks about it.

Both of us are now seating on the bed facing each other. She is listening to me attentively with her chin resting on her hand. I’m telling her everything I know about the mages and their plans.

I tell her about how the mages have been prowling these forests about less than a year ago. I have had a few encounters with them, and I had pulled little to nothing information from them. I just know they are planning their return to rule again.

“The story of the mages starts a long time ago. Magicians were the first inhabitants of the lands and they created the Eternal Unity. Humans started to emigrate to these lands, but they were chased by magicians because of their lack of powers and magic. Humans started to get together to go against the magicians. Little by little, they started to incorporate themselves into the kingdoms and in royalty. Until one day, a very powerful magician called Ascanius appeared, and the real war started there. It lasted 100 years, and it ended thanks to Princess Nerisa. She was a mage in a family of humans, and she killed all mages in the final battle, including herself.”

“The princess of the story...” She muttered amazed and I nodded.

“So, that’s it? They just want to rule again and remove humans from existence? Why the hell would this involve me.”

I shook my head and frown settles on my face, trying to think of a possible explanation. A fleeting idea passes through my mind, but it settles and my face falls at the thought of it.

Could she be the one? She can’t... it doesn’t make sense.

Curiosity laces her face. “What are you thinking?” She asks suspiciously.

“Nothing, just... nothing.” I muttered.

She raises her brows but doesn’t push it.

“We need to keep up with your training before we go to Lux Novum, the war is coming, and we surely don’t want to get caught in the middle of it.”

“Lux Novum?” She asks confused.

“The royal castle is located in the city of Lux Novum, the capital of the Kingdom of Adendawyn.”

She nods in understanding before she gets up. She takes my hand and pulls me with her. A small smile grazes her features and my heart flutters. She is beautiful as she is amazing. I couldn’t ask for someone better.

“Can I start with weapons today?” She asks excitedly.

I look at her for a long time, intensely, just to make her nervous. I love it when she is nervous.

“Yes, you can.” I say slowly, just to make the suspense.

She fistbumps the air and gives an excited squeal. She hugs me tightly before she takes off running out of the cabin.

I sigh and go after her.

As always, she was at the back of the cabin with that damn Pegasus. But now the game has changed. Now that it is cured and healthy, the little shit can do anything. And when I mean anything, I mean hurting Liberty. I don’t trust it. It had already hurt her once and I won’t let it happen again.

I watch Liberty as she pets the Pegasus she calls ‘Lucy’, with love and adoration in her eyes. The Pegasus leans towards Liberty’s hand and it seems that she is enjoying her touch. Now, I was jealous.

I clear my throat so I can have Liberty’s attention and she turns around expectant to what I have to say, and I can swear the little shit is glaring at me.

“We should go and train.” She nods and gives the Pegasus the last caress before turning around and walking towards me.

She hugs me and whispers into my ear. “I know you’re jealous.” The corner of her lips is tugged in a smirk.

She lets go of me while I glare at her playfully. She laughs and takes off running towards the front part of the cabin, which is where we train.

Now that I realize it, once she started running, she hasn’t stopped. I think she secretly enjoys it.

I go after her once again and we start the training. I give her the spare sword I had (the one I showed her the first day of training) and we train in sparring. I teach her defense and offensive positions, how to grab the sword, best moves, and so on.

I’m surprised at how quickly she grasps it. She has a little cute frown on her forehead, concentrating on everything I say and her gaze follows all my movements so she can copy them.

We keep up like that all day and at the end of the day, she is already sparring quite decently.

Days have passed since we started the training, and damn she is quick to learn. She uses the knife even better than I do and her confidence is amazing. Her bow and arrow skill sucked at first, but now she’s decent at it. And the sword, she has learned a lot, but she still has a lot more to learn.

I’m imagining my return to the palace. Everyone’s reaction, especially my father’s reaction. I think he hates me, but I don’t care. I’m doing this for my mother and my siblings. And well, Liberty. The more time we are in this woods, the more danger she is in. Now that I know the mages have plans for her, I want to get out of here as fast as I can.

Civilization is at least two to three weeks away, and I know if we don’t get out of here in time, the mages are going to catch up with us and they are going to take Liberty away, and I’m not going to let that happen, ever. If Ascanius wants her, he is going to go over my dead body first.

The problem is that we can get out of here without information. If we go back to the palace and tell them that the mages are planning a war, they are going to laugh in my face. I need more proof that they are coming back, or else they are going to accuse me of trying to create panic or whatever. And getting information from the mages is one hell of a task. I had to trap a mage to get information from him, and the only thing he told me was that Ascanius was alive and planning a war. Of course, I killed the mage after he gave me the information and after that, I haven’t been able to trap another mage for interrogation. The bastards disappear or even go as far as to kill themselves if I’m near to trap them.

For a long time now, they have been laying low, and I haven’t seen them roaming the woods. Besides, I have been more attentive to Liberty’s training than other things.

Today, I’m planning to go into the woods to look for answers.

I woke up early, before dawn. Liberty is sleeping soundlessly next to me. She looks so peaceful and beautiful when she sleeps, that I’m tempted to just stay next to her and watch her sleep. I shake my head at my creepy thoughts and kiss her forehead. I get out of bed and grab my sword and knife. I put my cape on and leave the cabin without making a sound.

I immerse myself in the forest and I’m on high alert, my eyes raking every corner and every tree, looking out for any suspicious movement. I walk for an hour, but nothing happens.

I rest my back on a tree and drink some water. Mages are starting to be very difficult to catch. I don’t know why, but they have been laying low these last months. I suspect they are planning something, something huge. And even though I had spent hours and hours looking, I never found where they are coming from. It’s like they come from nowhere and everywhere at the same time...

A dry branch brakes behind me and I tense. My hand goes slowly to my sword, and in a fast move, I turn around and take my sword off its sheath. I step back from the tree and see clearly the mage behind the tree. He is an old man, with a robe on and a wand in his left hand.

I glare at him and keep the sword in a menacing position. The mage smiles wickedly as if he just found a bag of gold.

“You aren’t as silent as you think you are, human.” The mage says with a snicker. The fucker probably followed me, and I hadn’t realized it. I curse internally but maintain my cool on the outside.

“And now you are mute?” He laughs as if it was the best joke.

“I’m not here to play games. I want answers, and you’re going to give them to me.” I say slowly, putting emphasis on the part where he gives me the answers.

“Oh sure, let’s sit and have some tea.” His voice drips with sarcasm and the smile disappears. “Who do you think you are mutt? Demanding answers from me?” He shakes his head. “You humans are so stupid.”

I shrug. “Have it your way.”

I move forward, catching him off guard. I slice the air in an attempt to cut his throat, but he moves fast and avoids the sword merely some centimeters.

He snarls and his eyes instantly turn a bright yellow. With a quick movement of his hand, the wand throws a spell. I put my sword as a shield, and the spell is absorbed by it.

The mage glares at me furiously before throwing another spell. This time I move to the side and the spell hits a tree. The tree is now burning in flames. I need to move fast to catch this son of a bitch.

I move quickly forward, and the mage starts to throw spell after spell, but I put my sword in front of me and the sword absorbs everything. Just when I’m close enough, I kick him in the gut and he falls to the ground.

He lifts his hand in surrender with a mocking face. I eye him suspiciously. “It’s never this easy...”

“Your wand, on the floor. Now.” I command in a cold voice, looking him straight in the eye while my sword is an inch above his throat.

The mocking smile it’s still on his face, but he drops the wand, his eyes turning back to normal.

“What are Ascanius plans?” I ask in a cold calculated voice.

“What plan? Why does he have to have a plan? Maybe he is just organizing vacations or-” I growl and press the sword against his throat.

“I will slice your throat, don’t doubt it.” I move the sword slightly and blood starts to withdraw instantly. He hisses and clenches his jaw.

“His plans are none of your concern, prince.”

My stomach drops and I clench my hand tighter around the swords handle.

“Fuck, they know.”

My worry apparently could be seen, and the mage smirked.

“I’m going to enjoy torturing you, your Highness.” He laughs maniacally and I see red. Now I’m furious.

“We’ll see about that.”

I don’t even think about it twice. I slice his throat off, blood gushing non-stop. The head rolls to the side slightly, with that maniac smile still on his face, his eyes lifeless.

I jerk the sword to the side, splashing the tree beside me with blood. I don’t give the body a second glance, and storm off out of there towards the cabin.

How do they know who I am?

I arrive at the cabin, and my change in demeanor is noticeable. Liberty try’s to ask me whats wrong, but I avoid her questions.

“You know you can tell me anything, right?” She tells me with pleading eyes. Her green eyes catch my attention every time I look at them, and I have to shake my head to focus.

“Is really nothing, beautiful. Don’t worry.” I kiss her forehead, and I can see the blush in her cheeks.

Still, she looks at me suspiciously, not buying it at all.

“Fine, don’t tell me.” She turns around and starts to walk away, but I hug her waist and trap her just in time.

“Aw, don’t be angry, it is really nothing,” I whisper in her ear softly and feel her body melt into mine. She sighs and shakes slightly her head.

“I just hope you are telling the truth.” Her head rests on my shoulder and I take her hand. I look at it, and a smile makes its way onto my face.

“What?” she asks tilting her head with curiosity.

“I’m just thinking of us.” I answer truthfully, well, sort of.

The moment we get to Lux Novum, I’m going to put a ring on her finger. I want her to be mine, in every sense, and spend every minute of my life with her.

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